Vancouver Giants forward Calvin Spencer (right) collided with a Prince George Cougars opponent along the boards Monday at the Langley Events Centre.

Vancouver Giants forward Calvin Spencer (right) collided with a Prince George Cougars opponent along the boards Monday at the Langley Events Centre.

Thriller at the Langley Events Centre: Prince George Cougars edge plucky Giants

Home team battled to the bitter end against one of the best teams in the WHL.

  • Jan. 23, 2017 10:00 a.m.

by Troy Landreville

Black Press

Aside from being part of the Vancouver Giants’ leadership group, captain and top scorer Tyler Benson, leading goal getter Ty Ronning, and key defenceman Dylan Plouffe had one other thing in common Monday night at the Langley Events Centre.

All three were missing from the lineup when the Giants faced the B.C. Division-leading Prince George Cougars, who entered the game with a stellar 33-13-3 record.

For a depleted G-Men squad that was missing eight regulars and coming off a 6-1 road loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday to boot, it had all the makings for a potentially bad night.

It wasn’t.

Not even in the slightest.

And while the Giants ultimately fell 2-1 in a shootout, they valiantly earned a single point — and gave the 2,964 fans at the LEC their money’s worth and then some.

You can thank a yeoman’s effort from every single member of the home team for that.

Prince George’s Jansen Harkins scored the shootout winner, wiring a bullet of a shot past Giants goaltender Ryan Kubic, who was a huge factor in getting his team a point.

Shootout loss aside, Vancouver bench boss Jason McKee was thrilled with his team’s work ethic and willingness to have each other’s backs all night long.

“That was as proud as I’ve been of them all year,” McKee said. “They played hard, I thought our four guys that have been here all year on the back end were good and I thought our two young guys were exceptional. That (the Cougars) is a team that scored four or more goals 20-some times at least this year. To hold them to one… they did an outstanding job defending.”

McKee said it was a tough way to lose, but added, “I’m proud of the way they played. They defended hard, we had a few chances and they just worked tonight. It was a breath of fresh air that we had everybody just working. It was great.”

The Giants played lockdown team defence during a scoreless opening period, managing to hold the Cougars without a shot through the first six-and-a-half minutes.

The Cougars opened the scoring at the 5:45 mark of the second period when Jared Bethune whacked the puck into the open net after his linemate Brendan Guhle’s  wraparound attempt ricocheted perfectly onto his stick.

Prince George held onto its one-goal lead until the waning minutes of regulation time.

That’s when the Giants were finally rewarded for their hard work.

With his team shorthanded, Giants forward Dawson Holt moved in on a two-on-one and wisely decided to shoot rather than pass, snapping the puck over the left shoulder of Cougars netminder Nick McBride with 4:11 to play in the third period.

A thrilling three-on-three overtime period that saw both teams have glorious chances to end it solved nothing, so the game went into shootout mode.

McKee said it was all about “effort, compete, and just playing for the Giants.”

“I didn’t think we had any passengers tonight. Everybody played hard every shift and we played for the logo on the front tonight,” McKee said.

The Giants — 17-27-1-3 – return to action this Friday, Jan. 27 when they host the Victoria Royals at the LEC. Game time is 7:30 p.m.